In a match-up of severely short-handed teams, the Houston Dynamo reminded us why they are regarded as the deepest team in MLS. No Dwayne DeRosario, Pat Onstad, Wade Barrett or Eddie Robinson, four MLS All-Star caliber players, but it didn’t matter against a Red Bulls squad that just doesn’t have the bench to to make up for the absences of Juan Pablo Angel, Claudio Reyna and Dave Van Den Bergh.
Brian Ching’s header goal won an otherwise ugly game as Dynamo midfield aces Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden outclassed a young Red Bulls midfield. Even with that though, the Red Bulls played well enough defensively to merit a draw, and surely had a strong case for a penalty call that should have gone there way. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, luck hasn’t played a big part in the first two months of the season.
SBI correspondent Alex Swaim took in the action and provided his take on the match, while correspondent Andrew Keh was, like many Red Bulls fans, unable to watch the match because it was only on HDNet. That didn’t stop Keh from giving us an interesting take on the current state of the Red Bulls below.
An ugly but deserved win for short-handed Dynamo
By ALEX SWAIM
On a muggy afternoon in Houston, the Dynamo pulled off an ugly 1-0 victory in the cozy confines of Robertson Stadium.
Hey, points are points. Considering that both teams were missing starters, I’m more than happy with the result.
I just wish I had been there. I had my ticket in front of me the whole game as I watched on HD Net, but my car wouldn’t start. Even if the game was mostly unexciting, highly physical play there is no feeling like jumping and singing for 90 minutes next to the members of the Texian Army and El Batalion. I don’t get the chance to do that as often as I would like – school takes precedence over soccer – but it’s always a blast.
Considering that both teams were missing so many starters, it didn’t surprise me that the Dynamo won. At the point it’s a battle of the benches, the Dynamo (who can boast youngsters like Geoff Cameron, Stuart Holden, and Corey Ashe as well as veterns like Craig Waibel off the bench) will have the upper hand against any team in MLS. That’s really where success has come from in these last two season for Dominic Kinnear’s squad.
It’s also been held together by a stong defense that starts from the top and works its way back. Against the Red Bulls the team played well defensively, which is in large part thanks to Juan Pablo Angel’s absence from the game. Without Angel the Dynamo were free to double team Jozy Altidore without compromising the central defense.
The goal was a good one, with Brian Ching looking like he’s about to erupt before too long with a multi-goal game. I can only hope he plays the rest of the season looking like he did on Saturday. He still missed more chances than I would have liked, but he was a presence the entire match and didn’t fade away as he sometimes does. It’s good to see him playing with heart again.
Holden had a good game in place of Dwayne DeRosario, but doesn’t have the Canadian’s ability to take the ball forward by himself. It made it easy enough for the New York side to keep him out of the game, but it was still his eye that found an unmarked Cameron that led to the goal.
Ashe has impressed so far this season, and even though it led to a controversial penalty non-call, I’m happy to see him throw his diminutive body around against the bigger competition.
The good news is that, even against a depleted Red Bulls side, the Dynamo were able to put together a solid performance – if a bit hard to watch – and come away with a result. Brian Mullan was more convincing as a forward than anybody else on the roster has been in partner with Ching, and I hope to see either Mullan or DeRosario get more starts playing forward.
What I’m happy to see in watching this game is that the team played a tough game and came out with the result in a way they weren’t earlier in the season, and it puts them within a point of the top in the lackluster West.
It’s not a bad time to be a Dynamo fan right now. There’s promise of better play just around the corner.
Red Bulls resembling a bad movie
By ANDREW KEH
How the 2008 Red Bulls are just like the new Indiana Jones movie:
I own The Fugitive on VHS, and when I was younger, I watched it approximately once a week (twice a week during summer vacations). Harrison Ford, at the time of the film’s release, was nearly 50 years old, but still relatively spry and certainly believable as a grizzled vascular surgeon who survives a violent bus crash and solves the intricate murder of his beloved wife while on the run from the entire Chicago police force and a team of US Marshals headed by the always savvy Tommy Lee Jones.
In the new Indiana Jones movie, Ford, now 65, does not play his old man character with wit and wisdom like Sean Connery did in The Last Crusade. Ford’s still supposed to be the whip-cracking, brawling Indy from two decades past, and, as old as he looks on screen, it doesn’t quite work.
To complete this extended analogy, watching the new Indiana Jones movie after watching The Fugitive is like watching my World Cup 2002 highlight DVD and then watching a Red Bulls game. Claudio Reyna is far from qualifying for senior citizen status (though he does tend to wear his shorts about as high as my great-uncle, who is a senior citizen), but his performances today only make us nostalgic for days past. That is, if he makes it onto the pitch at all. Once again this weekend, his aging legs kept him out of a pivotal contest, one that could have helped the Red Bulls bounce back mentally after last week’s disaster. I’ve defended Reyna’s ability time and again, but the fragility of his limbs would be comical if it wasn’t for how maddening it is for Red Bull fans. This year, he’s been about as believable as an attacking midfielder as Harrison Ford is a tenured archaeology professor that beats up gangs of Russian soldiers.
A Shiny, Crystal Skull
See: Seth Stammler
Shia Lebeouf was supposed to inject the venerable, but somewhat outdated franchise with some young blood and youthful energy. But he has a difficult time transcending the inherent blandness of the written character. He’s proven himself in recent years as a charismatic young actor with a ton of potential, but in the new Indiana Jones, his performance falls flat.
And—you’ve already guessed it, I’m sure—the same could be said for the Red Bulls’ youngsters! The relatively disappointing play of Jozy Altidore has been discussed to death. It’s true that we must keep his age in mind when dissecting his performances this year, but there’s no disputing the fact that Altidore has not looked himself in recent games. He scored one fantastic goal earlier this season, and had a great chance on goal in Houston. But more often this year, he has moved without much purpose, shown a heavy first touch, made clumsy passing decisions, and spent too much time arguing calls and jawing at opposing players. He is young and still learning. But that doesn’t mean I can’t compare him to Shia Lebeouf in the new Indiana Jones movie.
What is not often discussed, furthermore, is just how much the Red Bulls, particularly in their midfield, rely on players with little or no professional experience, and how much it seems to be hurting the team. Luke Sassano, due to injuries to Reyna and Stammler, has spent an inordinate amount of time in the Red Bulls midfield this season with nothing to show for it. His passing and decision-making have been suspect, and he has not been able to find a suitable playing rhythm on the field. Similarly, Dane Richards and Danliegh Borman have shown flashes of their potential and outstanding physical tools (particularly speed), but have not shown the polish on offense to help elevate the team.
It’s no question that all of these players, particularly Altidore, will be quality professionals in years to come. But the reason Red Bulls fans might find themselves beginning to panic now, after two straight losses, is that they happen to form the core of the team in the present day.
Curses, Evil Spells
Supernatural forces abound in the new Indiana Jones movie, and I am positive that there are some at work on the Red Bulls right now. A hamstring injury to Reyna, Juan Pablo Angel with flu-like symptoms, and Dave van den Bergh staying home to be with his wife while she gives birth, all in the same week?! After a 5-1 loss at home?! Are you kidding me?! Congratulations to Dave van den Bergh, by the way.
See: Seth Stammler